Measuring Public Relations
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Mind the GAP - Proof Positive of the need to measure public relations?

Findings from the latest GAP study have been doing the rounds over the last day or so, with commentary primarily centred on the use of social media. More interesting for me was the data they had pulled together on how communications professionals were dealing with measurement and evaluation. 

With 382 communication decision makers participating in this latest University of Southern California project, it was interesting to see that those who offered up their activities for scrutiny spent an average of just four to five percent of their total budget on formal evaluation. This makes for an interesting 'PS' to my last post, particularly as the study suggested that corporate participants felt that higher spend on measurement and evaluation meant higher standing with the CEO. 

As the GAP survey summary put it "In other words, the greater the investment in evaluation (as a percentage of the total PR/Communication budget), the greater the likelihood the CEO believes PR/Communication makes a bottom-line contribution."

I don't consider this to be a surprising finding. In fact, it teeters into the realm of Monty Python's 'bleeding obvious'. However, because there are seemingly still so few practitioners operating robust evaluation programmes, perhaps it will take more research findings like this to convince them to get on and do what they should have been doing all along.

I did find myself weeping into my afternoon tea when I read the 'top five metrics' revealed by the research as, still there at 'No.5',  was 'Total Number of Clips'.  Now who in their right mind would take that seriously as a measure of organisational performance, reputational health or relationship strength? 

Obviously, there is a huge business opportunity here for evaluation-savvy professionals to corner the market with great ethical practice, reported well and demonstrating the value of the work undertaken. As professionals, we know that the work we do has value, improves the organisation and its relationships and creates positive change.  So why are professionals so shy about demonstrating this through good research and reporting practices?  The old excuses of cost, fear and uncertainty as to what to do have no place in today's operating environment. 

GAP stands for Generally Accepted Practice and the research is published every two years. The final report from the 2009 study, which outlines best practice, will be released soon. From the reports so far, I fear that we are a long way from best practice in measurement and evaluation, even though it is entirely possible, affordable and achievable.

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